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The Normative Animal?On the Anthropological Significance of Social, Moral, and Linguistic Norms$
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Neil Roughley and Kurt Bayertz

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190846466

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190846466.001.0001

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The Normative Nature of Language

The Normative Nature of Language

(p.265) 13 The Normative Nature of Language
The Normative Animal?

N. J. Enfield

Jack Sidnell

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the normative nature of language, focusing on the idea that there are socially determined and commonly shared criteria for accountably appropriate action specific to language. We define norms in terms of three key properties: if a pattern of behavior is supported by a norm, it is subliminal (the behavior is not noticed when present), ablinimal (the behavior is noticed when absent), and inference-vulnerable (absence of, or deviation from, the behavior generates inferences). In exploring the normative nature of language, this chapter first considers people’s orientation to norms in the use of language in social interaction, and then turns to people’s orientation to norms in the appropriate use of words. The chapter makes the case not only that word meanings are regulated by norms but that people are motivated to enforce such norms even in the most mundane and informal of settings. This is the result of a general tyranny of accountability, which pertains to language, and to other forms of behavior that are grounded in human intersubjectivity.

Keywords:   linguistic norm, linguistic structure, semantic compositionality, lexical semantics, speech act, implicit communication, Grice, cooperation, society of intimates, evolution of language

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